Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When You and Your Marketing Expert Disagree

As you may already know, I regularly work with marketing agencies, providing that much-needed extra pair of hands for their efforts to produce the steady stream of online and print content that their clients need. Since the marketing provider is already (hopefully) in synch with the clients' brand identity, message, objectives and unique value proposition, I generally communicate through that professional instead of conversing with the client directly. This can be very helpful, partly for ensuring that the marketing provider remains firmly in control of the entire process, and partly because the marketing expert and I already speak the same lingo. I can't tell you how many times the marketing provider has said to me, "Okay, here's what the client says he wants -- but here's what we're actually giving him."

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Would you be outraged if your marketing provider took your ideas and requests and wove them into a completely different entity than you were envisioning? Or would you react with delight to realize that the final result actually surpassed your expectations? The answers to these questions depend on whether there's really a conceptual disconnect between you and your marketing provider -- and if so, where and why it's occurring. Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you clear on your own message?

You may feel that you know exactly what your brand is all about and who it serves -- but do you really? Many entrepreneurs who "just know" these things have never really sat down and sweated out the specifics. What do your buyer personas tell you? What demographics are you trying to cater to? What are your business's stated core values? The clearer you can get on these big questions within your organization, the more clearly you can express that message to your marketing provider.

Does your marketing expert get your needs and concerns?

Even if your marketing goals, challenges and needs are as clear as text on a page, your marketing expert must be ready, willing and able to assimilate that information. Bigger marketing agencies can have lots of people working on lots of accounts. Do you know who your point of contact is? Can you get that person on the phone when you have questions or concerns? Does the marketing agency promise personalized service, or are you just another account number? If you feel like you're talking to the proverbial brick wall, maybe you are -- and maybe it's time you talked to somebody else.

Is your marketing expert right?

When that marketing provider says to me, "Okay, here's what the client says he wants -- but here's what we're actually giving him," that's usually a good thing for the client. Remember, marketing professionals are in the business of helping you generate more revenue, and your preferred way of marketing yourself isn't necessarily the best path to that end. I once had a retailer complain to me that the ad I'd written "didn't speak to him." To which I replied, "I'm not trying to speak to you. I'm trying to speak to your audience." Sometimes it's best to let the marketing experts practice their expertise. As long as their efforts result in more customers and more revenue for you, they're getting the job done.

Whether you've engaged a turnkey marketing provider or a freelance marketing copywriter, communication is key to greater success for all involved. Clarify your own position, make sure your provider is listening -- and if everyone's on the same page, then trust those experienced professionals to make your marketing work.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Optimal Content for Optimized Websites: SEO Doesn't Mean "Search Engines Only"

Many of my copywriting clients are very busy bees indeed -- business owners and entrepreneurs who are struggling to pump out large quantities of online content as a means of attracting business and making themselves even busier. So I understand completely when one of them contacts me for assistance with "refreshing" old content instead of creating new content from scratch. Sometimes it makes great sense to revisit an old article angle or web page and rework the text to give it a new perspective or tweak it for an evolving audience. But if you're taking articles from across the wide expanse of the Internet and simply paraphrasing them "for SEO," you could be either making problems for yourself or missing out on some key benefits of marketing content creation -- benefits that go beyond search engine optimization.

Here are a few of the issues you need to consider if you're repurposing marketing content created by other individuals for their own organizations:

Paraphrasing or Plagiarism?

Paraphrasing another entity's content isn't a shady practice as such, but participating in blatant plagiarism is. If the original author notices, you might be slapped with an order to take down the offending item -- and if Google notices, your company may sink in the search rankings. What's the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism? It really comes down to how much of the original verbiage you use. If you must paraphrase, you must take the time and effort to completely rewrite the passage in question (by which point you might as well have created your own original content). Any word-for-word sections need to be placed in quotes or least attributed to their source.

Unique or More of the Same?

Your paraphrased piece may be as brilliantly stated as the original, or even more so -- but it won't be different in the ways that matter. If you're simply parroting what other industry experts had to say on the subject before you arrived on the scene, you won't make much impact in the sea of similar content. The right keywords might make your article or web page pop up in front of your target audience, but if the content surrounding them is nothing your prospects haven't read before elsewhere, don't expect to close any sales. Where's the original spin, the fresh approach? What's the "you factor?" Are you a thought leader -- or a thought follower?

Targeted or Generic?

A piece of marketing content originally created for one audience may hold little relevance for yours. If the piece originally referred to particular geographic areas or other details that appealed to their crowd, you'll have to take those out unless that author just happens to have the exact same target market as you. What's left is bland, generic text that doesn't clearly target anybody. Whatever the source of your material, you must always spin it so that it pertains directly to your clientele -- which usually means creating a big chunk of it entirely on your own.

As you can see, there's little to be gained by "flipping" existing materials from other organizations once you have to do all the extra work to make it yours -- especially when you could outsource your original writing tasks to a freelance marketing copywriter. True content optimization includes originality and creativity alongside the nuts and bolts of keyword placement, winning new customers as well as higher rankings. SEO stands for search engine optimization, not "search engines only!"